The 5 Core Values Of Video Storytelling For Churches | Ep. #102

Pro Church Daily is the show where - in ten minutes or less - you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while navigating the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years.

May 5th, 2018

Brady discusses the core values he uses when creating videos, some pitfalls to avoid, and how to apply these concepts in your own videos.

What’s In This Session?

  • #1: Show don’t tell (2:31)
  • #2: Stunning visuals (3:46)
  • #3: Don’t force resolution (4:59)
  • #4: No story is too small (7:46)
  • #5: The responsibility falls on the storyteller (9:27)

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

The Full Transcript

Alex Mills: Well hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily. This is the show where, in ten minutes or less, you’re gonna get a daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift that we have seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. I’m joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer. And today, we’re talking about the five core values of video storytelling for churches. 

Brady Shearer: When you’re putting together a video story for your church, that testimony video, the one that’s gonna share the story of someone in your church through the medium of video, we like to have these five core values to kinda drive the process. There are so many different directions you can take the video, so many different things that you can do, and what we like to do is have these five core values to give us that compass, give us that straight and narrow line and reasoning for what we’re doing. Because, especially with these types of videos that tend to require many people, that tend to be more expensive and more timely, there’s a lot of different opinions, there’s a lot of different thoughts. How should we present this video, what kind of camera should we use, who’s gonna shoot it, when are we gonna edit it, when do we want to present it, how are we gonna tell the story? Was that too much, was that not enough? 

And we found that when we started using these five core values in our churches, these decisions became so much easier. And so we want to share with you these five core values of video storytelling now. 

Alex Mills: Well and like you said on episode 101 of Pro Church Daily where we’re talking about testimony videos and some questions that you can ask, you mentioned that when you record a testimony video, often you’d be rolling for an hour sometimes, maybe longer. There’s a lot of footage and to bring it all in to a timeline and try and make a story out of it can feel overwhelming. So to have these values going into the project, kinda have these guidelines and say okay, this is why we’re doing this, this is how we’re going to do this, it’s really going to help you in that process of creating a story out of what could be a lot of footage, a lot of really great content, but you’re gonna try and reduce it down to two minutes, three minutes, you know what I mean? And so these are gonna help you along the way with that process.

Brady Shearer: That’s a great point. Like I’ll film 60, 70, 80 minutes of tape, and then I’ve got to cut it down to 2, 3, or 4. So the whole name of the game is remove, remove, eliminate, eliminate. And if you don’t have guidelines for how you’re making those decisions, you can cut … You’re gonna end up cutting 95, 98% of your content, and then you might not have anything left that’s actually cohesive; it could just be this random string of one to two sentences. So you gotta have actual reasons for making your decisions, and these five core values should help with that. 

Core value number one: Show, don’t tell. There are so many places in church where we do the tell thing, and that’s applicable; if you’re doing a sermon or a message and you’re taking the Bible and doing expository preaching, maybe tell is more applicable there. But when you’re telling a story, the whole point is to show the person’s story. This is not the time to try to dial in an exact theological truth and say this is the way that it has to be, because what story does so well is it welcomes everyone to the table. You share a human story, and the reason storytelling is the most powerful form of human communication, is it welcomes everyone to the table. And then everyone gets to reflect on the story and, based on their own experiences and their own past, they’re taking something away that’s probably different from the person next to them and the person next to them.

And so if you try to dial in to an exact takeaway and the point of this story is that X, Y, and Z, you rob the story of that ambiguity and now you can’t welcome everyone to the table. This entire principle can be summed up in show, don’t tell. Don’t worry about exact takeaways; just show the story and let the story do what it does best.

Alex Mills: That’s really, really good.

Brady Shearer: Core value number two: Stunning visuals. We like to make the majority of our video B-roll. So we could film an hour or two of tape of the person sitting in the chair telling their story; you might only see them for a total of 30 seconds in the final video because we’re covering it up with great B-roll. So we’ll shoot the interview first, we’ll start to piece it together a bit, we’ll plan out all the shots that we want for the B-roll, and then we’ll go out and shoot those. And at the end of the day, that’s what the audience is seeing more than the actual interview itself. They’re hearing the interview the whole time but they’re seeing these stunning visuals, and this goes back to show, don’t tell; we’re showing, we’re giving a visual to what’s being said.

Alex Mills: I think what you said there is very important, that you actually premeditate the B-roll that you’re going to shoot. And that’s gonna really help in the editing process, going into it with a plan and knowing that I want to shoot this to compliment this part of the story, and shoot this to compliment this part of the story, as opposed to just shooting stuff or even pulling from stuff that you’ve already shot, saying like how can I make this work here? Shoot with intention, and we’ve learned this in our own projects that we’re working on here in the office; like shoot with intention and that really helps you on the other side in the editing process to put it all together.

Brady Shearer: Exactly. 

Core value number three: Don’t force resolution. We all know that we’re not gonna be the people that we were born to be until we’re reunited with Jesus face to face. And yet, in our stories, we always feel like in that third and final act, we need that person to say, “But I came back to the Lord and everything’s good now.” Well that’s fundamentally untrue because becoming sanctified is a never-ending process until death and reuniting with Jesus. 

So it can feel very tempting to wrap up your story in a nice little bow-

Alex Mills: We love it. We love resolution. 

Brady Shearer: … and everything’s finished. But it’s actually not true and I’ve found unhelpful, because we all know that we’re not perfect. We all have these things that most people don’t know about. We all have these things that maybe our spouse knows, maybe our closest friends know, maybe nobody knows, and for us to put on display this picture of the person that went through a hardship, came out of it on the other side, and now is set, it actually isn’t helpful for all the people watching. Because they’re all thinking in their heads one, I don’t buy this, so not the validity of your story has become compromised, but two, I can’t related to this because I’m not perfect yet.

What’s better is to talk about the story, talk about the intersection with Jesus and how he’s brought us closer to him and made things better, but also to talk about what is still incomplete. One, it’s true, and two, now you’re able to welcome everyone into the story. Storytelling in your video story is just not the place for resolution because it’s inaccurate. 

Alex Mills: Well, and especially if you’re doing a testimony video; you know, imagine your congregation watching this video on a Sunday morning, you’re highlighting the story of somebody’s life, where they were and now where they are, and what the journey was like to get there. If you do kind of try to manufacture a resolution and end your story with well now everything’s good, you’re kind of giving this false assurance to your congregation, the people who are in process, saying if you do this, this, and this, you’re gonna arrive and then everything’s gonna be good. Well they’re gonna go ahead and do this, this, and this, and they’re going to arrive and realize well, everything’s not good.

And so, like you said, it’s kind of disingenuous; it’s not even true. And so it’s so much more helpful to say like, “Yeah, I went through this process and this is my testimony, and this is what God has done, and this is how I cooperated along the way. And yes, I’m here and it’s much better than where I was, but yes, I’m still going and this is my journey, and we’re all on a journey, and we’re all moving on a trajectory. And none of this is complete, but it’s getting better and that’s what this life is all about.” It’s just much more honest to tell that story in our churches, you know, as opposed to telling the classic rom-com story that you see on television; that they end up together and everything’s fine, and that … That’s just not often the truth. 

Brady Shearer: Facts.

Core value number four: No story is too small. I think that we tend to gravitate towards the giant story of the person that was in the life-threatening accident, and then they were in the hospital, and they came through, and now they have to live life that’s differently than before-

Alex Mills: Wait, you forgot they died, went to Heaven-

Brady Shearer: Wrote a book about it-

Alex Mills: … wrote a book about it. Yes.

Brady Shearer: … came back. I think that there’s actually more power in the everyday stories because they can be so much more relatable.

Alex Mills: Everybody has them.

Brady Shearer: Talk about the story of the person that’s saddled in student debt. Talk about the story of the couple that got married really young and they just don’t know if they’re gonna make it. Talk about the story of giving birth and becoming parents and wow, this is way more difficult than I expected. Talk about the story of transitioning from leaving your house and entering into the adult world, and hey, we had to make up a term for it, adulting, being it’s so freaking hard. No story is too small.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and you’ll learn this if you’re a communicator and you make the habit of documenting stories. You and I both do this in our own life; we’ve got an ongoing note on our phones. When we encounter something in our daily life that could be a good story, that could help somebody else learn something, we document it. And so when I started doing that, when I started training myself to cultivate that habit, I learned very quickly that no story is too small because if you’re always looking for the big story, you’re always gonna be disappointed. It doesn’t often happen. 

But if you realize that yeah, this everyday stuff is … There’s a learning opportunity here, this is something that everyone can identify with, everybody went through this today. And so I didn’t die and go to Heaven but, you know, I did go to the grocery store and this was what happened there, and you can identify with that. So it’s not too small to share. 

Brady Shearer: Finally, core value number five is the responsibility always falls on the storyteller. If you video didn’t work out the way that I hoped it was going to, it’s not because the interviewee was boring, it’s not because their story didn’t have any value or was not exciting enough; it’s because I didn’t ask the right questions. It’s because I wasn’t able to mine the story deep enough to find the parts that were so relatable, to find the deepest bruise, to find the depths of despair so that we could come back to the heights of redemption. I am the problem. Take personal responsibility for the art. 

And that’s what we talk about in Pro Church Daily episode number 101, nine questions that you can ask, so that you never leave and go, “Well, that story was boring.” No, it wasn’t; you just didn’t do well enough to get that story out, because everyone has a story and they’re all worth telling. Facts. Facts only. 

That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you next time.